Thomas J. Armitage

Digital Marketing Consultant | Utica, NY

Tag: business

business
What Mario Kart Taught Me About Business

What Mario Kart Taught Me About Business

Business

I’m not much of a gamer anymore. I used to be. Then again, weren’t we all in the 90s? Nintendo was pretty much our generation’s iPhone. Mostly everyone had one. And those who didn’t have one, wanted one. It was fresh, cool and continually being modified with newer versions and games that were better than the last. I fell in love with Super NES in 1994 when my brother and I got it as a Christmas gift. And on it, we loved playing one of the greatest party games of all time: Mario Kart.

 

 

Parents used to always rag on video games back then. Remember? They advised us that we should go outside and throw the ball around instead of sitting on the couch playing video games. “It will rot your brains,” they preached. “Those games don’t teach you anything.”

But now as an adult, I find myself constantly feeling nostalgic, thinking about those great games and if what our parents said was actually true. And then I started to realize something.

Mario Kart was a great parallel to the business world.

It didn’t rot my brain. No sir, Mario Kart taught me everything I know about life! Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but there’s certainly something to be said about the game and the lessons it lends to today’s business world, especially those looking to excel in marketing. Here’s three key reasons why I find Mario Kart to be the perfect metaphor to succeeding in today’s workplace.

Every Employee Has Different Skills

You turn on the game, and before you can even start thinking about all the fun you are about you have, you have to make a decision. In the worry-free 1990s, this was probably the most important decision you were going to make all month. Which character are you going to be?

I love how Nintendo made each character distinct. Not only in who they are, but in the strengths they possessed. Mario was well-balanced, for example. He didn’t have any stats that were off-the-chart, but was a great well-rounded driver. You could count on him to do a good job on all courses. Toad was light and had excellent handling abilities but his size and stature didn’t fair well when getting bumped by the big boys. Speaking of which, Bowser’s size and weight made him have slow acceleration speed but top off at the highest speed once he got going.

In the workplace, we all have unique strengths. At my company, upon hire, our president makes us each take the StrengthsFinder test as well as a personality test. By doing so, the group can quickly get a feel for a new member’s work style and what he/she might be great at. There’s a total of 33 strengths in this particular study. Some include:

  • Achiever
  • Belief
  • Competition
  • Developer
  • Discipline
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Positivity
  • Strategic

What I love about the book (that supports the test) is that it instructs readers to not focus on trying to compensate for weaknesses, but rather take time to understand and accentuate strengths. Just like Mario Kart, different employees, based on their strengths, might be better suited for certain projects, tasks, clients, etc. Maximizers are wonderful at working through the details, woo (winning others over) are great in client facing roles or in sales, etc.

It’s also helpful to take a look at personality types. Using the Jung and Briggs Myers model, learn which of the 16 personality types you fall in. By carefully understanding your personality, you can do a better job at adjusting your work style to find greater productivity and efficiency and settle into roles where you will succeed.

In Mario Kart, you have to know what you are good at to compete at the highest level. Understanding each team member’s strengths in your company can help you do a better job at aligning the proper resources to each project, while seeing far greater quality in work. Manage by strength, not by name or title.

All Markets Are Different

I bet running a small business was easy in the 1880s. You opened your business, maybe put an ad in the local newspaper, and dealt with all those great, loyal customers walking through the door. Life was good.

Today, it’s much more complicated. The web and mobile make geographical reach virtually non-existent. Remote staff and sales teams allow us to hire anyone, anywhere. The ability to reach all sorts of customers let even the most niche product or service have the potential for success beyond any sort of borders.

And at that same time, competition is fiercer than ever because anyone can start a business, raise funds, operate a staff, and sell a product. You see how much some of these GoFundMe pages have raised? It’s more important now, more than ever, to fully understand your market and target audience.

One of the coolest things about Mario Kart is the different courses that you encountered. Each was unique with different themes, roads, and enemies. It took weeks or even months of playing before you could master them all and know the special nuances of each. But let’s not mention Rainbow Road.

Tying back to real life, your market is the course. Each with a different landscape and makeup.

You may not have a bird’s eye view of your market like Mario, but you can research and pull from past experiences. As long as you have the time, talent and resources, you have access to data and information that can help you understand your market and audience and better lay out your business plans.

Explore blog posts, case studies and online statistics, and lean on research to build out buyer personas to see what your target audience is like – from both a demographic and psychographic perspective. Read into the cultural makeup of the areas that you are selling in to see if there are any correlations with buying habits.

Some activities to gather this information could include:

  • Google Consumer Surveys
  • Email Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Google Analytics and Social Media Demographic Data
  • User-Testing
  • Customer and Company Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Secondary Research
  • Negative Persona Development

The information gathered should be complete and help establish a comprehensive understanding of the audience. Some things you’ll definitely want to gather include:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Education
  • Income
  • Company
  • Title
  • Family
  • Language
  • Favorite Website
  • Favorite Apps
  • Preferred Device
  • Buying Motivations
  • Buying Concerns

There are resources out there, you just need to find them. Do so before you create any action plans so you can tailor the product, service, brand, and messaging for the audience within that market. And make sure to keep a close eye on your competitors too. You wouldn’t want Donkey Kong sneaking up on you and blasting you with a triple red shell now, would you?

Different Tactics Work At Different Times

When the race began, you had one goal. Get a weapon as soon as possible.

The genius behind Nintendo is their creativity with things like this. Each weapon offered a different advantage, and some even could come back to haunt you. The green shells were sent flying to try and knock off a leading racer. Red shells were similar but tracked the competitor for increased accuracy. And the blue shell chased the race leader! Banana peals were dropped behind you and hopefully forced your nearest enemy to slip and wipe out. And of course you also had mushroom boosts and the beloved star power.

In the business world, and most especially in marketing, we have an incredibly wide breadth of tactics at our disposal to try and reach our goals and/or improve our bottom line.

I came up with a list of 99 marketing tactics one day just to try and see how many were available to me while I was working on a new marketing plan. The fact is: we have a ton of options. Here’s just a few:

  • Affinity programs
  • Blogger outreach
  • Contests
  • Employee videos
  • Lead nurturing
  • Loyalty programs
  • Mobile apps
  • Podcasting
  • Social Media
  • Remarketing
  • Webinars
  • Websites

But what works best?

Of course that all depends on the company, the competitive landscape, the industry, budget, the audience and more. Before your new calendar year begins, put together a marketing plan that will map out everything you are looking to accomplish this year and why.

And before you start making the decisions on what to include, begin with research. Not all tactics are created equal and some companies see greater success than others, depending on how well they’ve crafted their plan.

In Mario Kart, some items work better than others. That depends on the course, the player, your current positioning, and the enemies in front or behind you.

In the game, it was a toss up what weapon you’d receive each time. And you were left dealing with the hand you were deal. Fortunately, in the business/marketing world, it’s not random. You have the power to choose whatever tactics you want.

Do the research, understand the market, lay out a strategy, and select the tactics that work best for you to help your company reach your goals. Choose wisely and work towards earning the most profound ROI around your work.

So, there ya go. See, Mario Kart really did teach us kids something. Happy personality test-taking, buyer persona-creating, marketing plan-building, and of course, Mario Kart playing. Have fun! And good luck!

This article originally appeared on Steamfeed.com. To view the full article, please visit: http://www.steamfeed.com/what-mario-kart-taught-me-about-business/

How To Keep Your Inbox At Zero (And Other Productivity Tips)

How To Keep Your Inbox At Zero (And Other Productivity Tips)

Business

I used to poke fun at my wife because she has some OCD tendencies. For example, different foods can’t touch each other on the dinner plate. For me, I just pour gravy over everything. Or what about how the bed needs to be made just right or else she can’t fall asleep? I passed out in Grand Central Station once next to a homeless dude. Slept great!

At home, not much bothers me. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized I’m very different when I arrive at the office. Maybe she and I are more alike than I thought.

Like many, I have a ritual that I follow pretty closely each day and each week. It’s this routine that helps me stay focused, get a lot done, stay organized and my keep stress levels down. This past week, a co-worker of mine wanted to chat with me about how I manage my time so well.

I started to jot down notes.

Then it dawned on me. So many things are just habitual that I never really noticed how many small things I do regularly that add up to make a big difference in the way I work. Here are the five major work habits that I’ve identified that help me with my time management, productivity, and organization. Maybe you can find benefit from these too!

A Morning Routine

You know how some people say: “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee?” I’m pretty much the same way, but with my morning activities instead of the cup of joe. Each day, I take the first 30 minutes or so organizing e-mails I received during the night (see the next section about my e-mail inbox), reading news, checking my social media handles, and scheduling posts. Unless it’s urgent, I will ignore everything else.

This helps me find my footing on the day, be in-the-know with any industry news, and clear out my notifications, to avoid any later distractions. This doesn’t get much work OFF my plate, but does do a nice job at helping set the tone and understanding needs and expectations from clients and teammates. Most people have a routine. But if it’s more coffee-related and less work-related, it’s probably not helping you much. Develop a routine that works for you and stick to it!

My Inbox Stays at Zero

A co-worker came to my desk recently and asked me to open an e-mail that he sent that morning. I asked what it was about. He said: “I just sent it. Check you inbox.” I replied, “I have nothing in my inbox. Tell me what email you are talking about and I’ll find it.”

It’s quite a shock to some when you say that you keep your inbox at zero. I know it’s not easy for everyone, but it can be done. Here’s what I do.

I develop a mailbox folder structure that’s custom to my needs. I create folders for each client, my company-related activities and most importantly, a “Pending” folder. Every half hour or so, I’ll check my email. If it’s urgent, I respond immediately. If it’s not, I’ll drag the email to the folder where it belongs.

If it’s related to a client, for example, it goes in that specific client folder. If it is related to my company, it goes in that folder (or one of its sub-folders). And if I need to take an action on it and am in the middle of something, it goes in my “Pending” folder. Later on in the day, I’ll block out time specifically to answer e-mails, and this is where I’ll follow up on those pending items. Sometimes I can’t take an action on it right then and there, so I’ll leave it in pending or another day or two. Better than keeping it in my inbox where it will get ignored.

I bet some of you are thinking that you get way too many emails and it would be impossible to keep your inbox at zero. Here’s a few tips. First, ask your colleagues to take you off the cc of irrelevant e-mails and to stop abusing the “reply all” function. These have become habit for far too many professionals. Address the issue and nip it in the bud and I bet you’ll see a dramatic decrease in inbox notes.

Secondly, you probably get a lot of junk mail. Use a service like unroll.me to mass delete e-mail marketing subscriptions or roll those auto e-mails up into one daily message.

Finally, consider project management and collaboration tools that house internal communication. Use basecamp, Clarizen or another similar services that keep project-related discussions within the platforms and out of your inbox.

Log Your Time Daily

If you work for an agency like me, you know the necessary evil of completing time sheets and having to log hours based on non-billable or billable time, and logging hours for each of your clients so you can track time, measure performance and profitability, etc. But I don’t look at time cards as a bad thing at all. In fact, I like them.

Time sheets help me understand where I’m putting my time and what I accomplished that day. Before I leave at the end of the day, I do my time sheet. I’m actually psycho about it. I refuse to go home until it’s done. And if I happen to have an urgent meeting that takes place at the end of the day, I simply do my time sheet ahead of time to make sure it’s done.

Doing these daily helps me to be accurate with my recording, not fall behind on logging hours (which then becomes a very daunting task in and of itself), and cap off my day with another point of organization. By visually seeing where I put time, and which clients were given attention, I can better prepare for my next day and the remainder of the month. Harvest and Timely are both great.

Ongoing To-Do List 

For years, I kept a to-do list on paper. It works okay, but here’s the drawback. Things get constantly added and removed, and priorities always change. So as a result, I had to keep re-writing my to-do list, every other day or so. This went on for years. I’m not sure why I didn’t adopt a digital tool until last year, but I’m glad I did.

My co-worker introduced me to Trello, which today, is one of the most popular to-do list managers. What I love about it is that it doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. In other words, don’t expect this to replace your project manager tool or your time sheet manager tool. Trello simply helps you organize your tasks and keep you sane.

My Trello consists of five boards: “Short-Term,” “Long-Term,” “Waiting on Client,” “Waiting on Team Member” and “Other Reminders.” When I have a new task, I create a task for it and add the name and description. I then color-code it based on what type of task it is (i.e. social media, reporting, content, development, etc). You can even color code by client if you wish. Finally, I drag it to its appropriate place in the order – the higher on the list, the higher the priority.

Here’s an example. I’d create a new task: “Work on quarterly report for client XYZ.” I make it blue because it is a report. And I’ll put it at the very top of the “short term” list because it’s high priority and needs to be done today.

When I’ve completed a task, I archive it. It disappears from my board but I can retrieve it later if I need to check on my work. I also use the “Other Reminders” board to manage things to keep in mind or meeting that need to be scheduled, which previously existed as sticky notes or as inbox e-mails.

I have Trello open all day, every day, and it has worked wonders in helping keep me organized, and saves time where I do not need to handwrite new to-do lists. There are mobile apps for it too.

The Weekly Sandwich

No, I’m not talking about food, though I wish I were (I’m always hungry). What I’m referring to is an activity I do on Mondays and Fridays – so it comes full circle and helps complete my week.

On Mondays, after my normal routine, I develop my list of tasks that I’m delegating to support staff or items I need colleagues to assist with. I document them in e-mails and them off.

I then add each task to my Trello board under “Waiting on Team Members.” This helps my team understand the tasks they need to work on that week. And it helps me remember what items need to be returned by week’s end.

On Fridays, I have brief meetings with my teammates to check on progress and see what has been worked on. I see what work has been accomplished that week and understand where my priorities lie for the next week. Hold yourself and your team accountable.

By doing these activities on Mondays and Fridays, I’m able to start the week on a strong note and leave for the weekend with less stress, seeing what I finished that week and knowing that it’s all organized and well-managed.

So there you have it, my top 5 list. I’ve been exercising these tactics for a while now and there have been very few days where I leave the office with that exasperated feeling that many of us know all too well. Try to implement these, or come up with tactics that work for you, and help yourself stay productive and manage your time better.

Do you have other tips? Leave them in the comment section. I’d love to continue improving my own organizational skills!

This article was originally published by SEMrush. To read the original article, please click here.

Social Media Fosters Internal Collaboration

Social Media Fosters Internal Collaboration

Social Media

I think a major misconception about social media is that it only appeals to consumer audiences. If you have a brand that doesn’t resonate with an active online audience, then what’s the point, right? But you might be missing a major, underlying component of social media. In addition to public outreach, it also fosters stronger internal teams within a company and its networks.

Internal Distribution of News

I’ve found it pretty common for staff members to share news internally whenever they discover a neat article that the entire company might find valuable. So how do you distribute that information? Email blasts? Weekly e-mail newsletters? A carrier pigeon? Today, many companies are realizing that there are benefits to granting company access to social sites. It’s understandable that Instagram, Twitter and Facebook might discourage productivity – especially if you have a large workforce. So for those that still need to run a tight ship, why not give access to the more professional ones? The company blog, LinkedIn and Google+, for example. These channels can give your employees a chance to read the latest articles being shared in the field or by your own company. It also allows staff members to comment, share and like company posts, furthering the reach of your messaging.

All Hands on Deck for Blogging

Interns all the way through the CEO should be writing blog posts and participating. When there are only certain team members involved, it ruins the whole concept that this is a *company wide* effort. From a personal standpoint, think of it as your chance to shine in front of your co-workers. Put forth effort. Highlight a recent news article and explain your thoughts. Tell us how your weekend trip to the mountains spurred your creativity in tackling this week’s project in a new way. Tell us anything!

Everyone should be reading the company blog posts too. I don’t care what division you are in. I don’t care what management level you sit. This is staff members’ knowledge, skills, opinions, insight, experiences, personality all being served out there for all to see. Read these posts. Get to know your team members. And comment! Visitors reading a blog might be intimidated to make the first move, so start the conversation. Let your co-worker know that it was a great article and add a thought or two. Don’t be afraid to debate either. This is what fuels diversity and brings out new points of view. And since most blog posts relate to your field, everyone who reads the post and the comment thread will have a more thorough understanding of the subject matter. 

Social Media Sharing

Outside of the blogs, develop an internal system for sharing links, pics and other materials on the company’s social sites. It might be best to have one or two people take the lead, simply from a structural standpoint, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t flag items to post. This sharing of content helps everyone feel like they are participating. Record the fun things you do in the office and load them onto your channels. It becomes a great library of past articles and events that staff members can look to at a later date, or potential hires might see when deciding if they would like to join the team. A company’s collective work culture should shine through in the voice and content of the posts.

On Three, Go Team!

Again, social media’s primary functions revolve around inbound marketing and leveraging conversations with current or potential customers. It’s a profound way to develop those relationships and build a rapport for long-term customer satisfaction. But flip this medium on its side and look at it through another lens. Internal communications can be a heavy task for some companies – especially those who are large and/or have remote offices. By sharing industry news and information through social sites, and by encouraging all team members to participate in the blog, it can have a meaningful effect on the company’s marketing efforts. Camaraderie is built in many ways. Sure, the employee Christmas party and the Friday happy hours are great. They always will be great. But in this digital age, we should be taking advantage of the tools out there. Social channels are just one more medium that we can leverage for better teamwork and collaboration. 

Embracing New Software in the Workplace

Embracing New Software in the Workplace

Business

It’s easy to become complacent. We get into our daily routines, we learn how to do our jobs just well enough to not get fired, and we rinse, wash, and repeat until retirement. Or at least some of us do. Others embrace the new methods and new tools that become available to be more productive in our jobs. Whether this leads to a promotion or not, it should be your duty as a valued member of your team to continually be innovative and find the best possible ways to get your job done at the highest quality.

Author David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement speech titled “This is Water” at Kenyon College in 2005. It was brought to life last week after a multimedia company created a video based on Wallace’s recording. The video, which attracted more than 1 million views in 24 hours, provided visuals of Wallace’s concept that day in and day out, we do the same things. But instead of just accepting that, we should look at life with a different perspective and appreciate all the little things we see. If you have 10 minutes to spare, I encourage you to view the video below:

http://youtu.be/xmpYnxlEh0c

As the video points out, we regularly find ourselves trapped by daily routines after work. But what about *during* work? Even more so do we walk in, tap on the keyboard, pound out reports, and call it a day. Every day. It can get boring. And we can find ourselves not only dissatisfied with our happiness level but we’re also reaching productivity lows. Instead, there are alternative ways of doing things and better ways of operating.

Learn.

I’ll say it again. Learn as much as you can. Learn today, learn tomorrow. Every day you should be discovering new things about your company, your customers, your clients, your team members and new ways of becoming a better employee. From a personal standpoint, this comes with setting time aside to educate yourself. There are a variety of new tools, software, devices that appear on the market every day. Take time each morning to go through your RSS feed (Feedly, Pulse, Newsblur, etc) and research the trends in your field. Are there new software that help to get the job done more efficiently? Here’s a few examples of things you might find:

– A new project management tool that allows you to track time and communicate with employees better. Many organizations get used to an internal tool like this and do not bother to research better systems.

– A new CRM system can make responses to customers more efficient. Just because your company uses the most popular tool in the marketplace doesn’t mean it’s the best one for your particular company.

– Does your most-used tools come in app format? Whether you are comfortable with them yet or not, mobile devices are taking over the workplace. Within five years, you may be working solely from a tablet. Become familiar with these devices and the interfaces of the apps that are present.

– You’ve read the same three trade publications every day for the past five years. Are there any new ones? New blogs and news sites pop up online every day. Perhaps you’ll find one today that has great information about your respective field.

Whatever industry you sit, there is always innovation. Be the liaison to your organization and share with your superiors your thoughts on improving and streamlining daily processes. Whether that results in a tangible reward or not, there’s always personal pride and conscientiousness!

Leveraging Pinterest for Business

Social Media

Pinterest has a user base that isn’t like counterparts Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Stats range depending on the study, but it’s safe to say 80% of Pinterest users are women. As a brand, this should naturally be taken into consideration when creating pins and developing messaging. Additionally, users spend an average of 16 minutes on the site each day – more than Facebook and Twitter but slightly less than YouTube. This excessive time means users are browsing around and not just visiting quickly and leaving (as they do with Twitter).

One of the main takeaways I’ve seen from my readings is that boards/pins should reflect themes and shouldn’t simply be brand promotions. Brands should step out of their comfort zone and create boards that do not directly fit their product/service. For instance, a lawnmower company might have boards related to DIY, wildlife, home improvement, the outdoors, etc. Think about what the target might like, not necessarily what the CEO might like. Your customers only buy lawnmowers or accessories once a year. What else are they buying and what else are they doing in all that other time?

Two things that are very important, but that many users seem to forget are the use of hashtags and adding comments. Like Twitter, hashtags help people surf through material that they personally find useful. If you use popular hashtags that other brands are using (#DIY, #recipes, #animals), random users will stumble across your posts as they browse. This extends the reach of your material. Furthermore, adding commentary is critical. Even a sentence or two reveals the voice behind the brand, further develops your online personality and can demonstrate your expertise in the field.

As with most social channels, appropriate citation and copyright claims are often a concern. When sharing information from other outlets or brands, the original poster of the content should remain visible so as to not appear as though the copyrighted material is stolen.

Pinterest is also a great way to generate new, fresh content on other social media channels. Each social media channel should have its own unique voice/strategy, so you don’t want to completely duplicate all posts onto Facebook and Twitter. However, a few posts here are there are great to remind your audience that you are also present on Pinterest. It’s a nice way of saying: “Hey, come follow me!” without actually stating it.

Pinterest is all about the visuals. I recommend following other brands which have similar content in order to easily repin those posts and build a library. For example, some good Pinterest accounts for a lawn mowing company might be HGTV, DIY, Better Homes & Garden, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. Here is a great infographic from Mashable on brands and categories of who are using Pinterest. There are millions of photos circulating the Pinterest web, so jump in, blend in and take advantage.

Do you use Pinterest for your business? What techniques have you found to be most advantageous?